The momentum behind the legalization of gay marriage came from grassroots action, not from court cases. Not long ago, same-sex marriage in America was not merely an unpopular cause; it was a politically fatal onea€”a third-rail issue that could end the career of any politician foolish enough to touch it. It can be difficult to remember how hostile the terrain was for LGBT advocates, even in recent decades. In 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman and denied federal benefits to same-sex couples, passed by an overwhelming 85-to-14 margin in the U.S. When the Vermont Supreme Court ruled to allow civil unions in 1999, Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer called the decision a€?in some ways worse than terrorism.a€? The decision, which was reversed by the statea€™s voters, sparked nationwide backlash.
As recently as 2004, conservative strategist Karl Rove, seeing a potent wedge issue, pushed to have a€?marriage protectiona€? amendments placed on the ballot in 13 states. Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages, a number that is increasing at a brisk rate. This was not a win that came in measured doses, but rather a situation in which the floodgates of progress were opened after years of half steps and seemingly devastating reversals. This is perhaps the most important point: Rather than being based on calculating realisma€”a shrewd assessment of what was attainable in the current political climatea€”the drive for marriage equality drew on a transformational vision. For those interested in promoting further transformation in the United States and beyond, there are few ideas more worthy of careful and sustained examination. For the tradition now known as a€?civil resistance,a€? the triumph of same-sex marriage in the United States is a remarkable example of what happens when a critical mass of people withdraws its willingness to cooperate with an existing state of affairs, and when the support of social institutions for an idea or a regime falls away. Civil resistance has historically focused on the question of how strategic nonviolent conflict can be used to overthrow dictatorships.
In particular, they present a theory of how groundswells of popular defiance, aimed at shifting public opinion, can create social change. At the core of civil resistance is a theory of power that was first codified by Gene Sharpa€”a writer and teacher who is considered the godfather of the field.
Promoting what he has come to call the a€?social view of power,a€? Sharp contends that people have far more power than they typically realize. In the years after Sharp first elaborated his theory, a variety of critics complained that his approach was overly individualistic and voluntarist. A concept known as the a€?pillars of supporta€? made an important contribution to addressing this concern. These are all bodies that, in one way or another, provide a regime with the backing it needs to survive. If we imagine a hated dictator sitting on top of the temple, confidently surveying his dominion, the image of the buildinga€™s sudden collapsea€”and the tyranta€™s resultant tumblea€”becomes all the more satisfying. Beyond providing an entertaining exercise in visualization, the idea of the a€?pillars of supporta€? does several important things. The a€?pillarsa€? allow for better strategic thinking on the part of those trying to force change. Same-sex marriage has not been won by a unified legislative drive or through the leadership of a single champion in high office. Movements can scheme about how they might undermine one or more of the various sources of social support for the system and thus place the rulers on an ever-wobblier foundation.
Some observers, reflecting the overwhelming mainstream bias toward insider politics, have attempted to put the marriage equality victory within a monolithic framework. Consistent with monolithic preoccupations, Beckera€™s story starts with the genesis of the Perry case in 2008 and reaches its climax with the Supreme Court decision in 2013. Critics, including some of those who know the history most intimately, quickly pointed out that this is a terrible way to explain how same-sex marriage had gone from being a quixotic cause to a political winner. Between 1996 and 2007, Sullivan noted, public support for same-sex marriage in Gallup polls rose from 27 percent to 46 percenta€”a massive shift. The Supreme Courta€™s 2013 decisions in the Perry case and the even more important Windsor case (through which the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act) were critical milestones.
Viewed incrementally, many of these early efforts were failures: the initial progress in Hawaii and Vermont, for example, was reversed by state legislation (at least temporarily), and the wins that did hold prompted backlash in other states. In fact, the struggle was much more varied than even a list of state-by-state battles would indicate.
Here, the a€?pillarsa€? theory provides a useful framework for showing how different constituencies contributed to the accumulation of active public support for marriage equality. In entertainment, actors who had remained closeted for fear that their sexuality would cost them roles began coming outa€”perhaps most prominently Ellen DeGeneres, who appeared on the cover of Time in 1997 with the headline a€?Yep, Ia€™m Gay.a€? An increasing number of TV shows and movies featured openly queer characters and presented them in a sympathetic light.
Within mainline Protestant churches (as well as within Conservative and Reform Judaism), there have major battles in the past two decades over whether various denominations would welcome LGBT parishioners, whether openly gay and lesbian clergy members would be allowed to lead congregations, and whether these leaders would consecrate same-sex unions. In the legal community, a strong consensus in favor of LGBT rights took hold by the end of the 1990sa€”along with a decided skepticism of legal arguments justifying discrimination. Experts on parenting and childhood development were another important early constituency to move. Advocates worked to turn the power of a wide range of social institutions against the conservative status quo. Yet these conservatives found it ever harder to produce credible scholars who would back their position. Changing international opinion further wore away at conservativesa€™ foundation of support. Interestingly, some advocates who did a considerable amount of work pushing for LGBT rights, recognition, and respect did not necessarily see same-sex marriage as a priority demand.
In 2011, for the first time, polls showed public support for same-sex marriage to be more than 50 percent.


By the time the Supreme Court cases were being debated in 2013, it was hardly a fair fight. In the military, the policy of a€?dona€™t ask, dona€™t tell,a€? which generated intense debate and backlash in the 1990s, was finally rescinded in September 2011, giving way to widespread sentiment in favor of a€?open servicea€? by gay and lesbian troops. In July 2013, Exodus International, the leading ministry that had claimed to a€?curea€? homosexuality, shut its doors after 37 years, sending shockwaves through conservative Christian circles. The Presbyterian Church voted in 2014 to allow its ministers to officiate same-sex weddings in states where it is legal.
Bill Clinton, the greatest weathervane who ever lived, finally decided that the Defense of Marriage Act he had signed into law, boasted about in ads on Christian radio, and urged candidate John Kerry to defend as constitutional in 2004, was, you know, wrong. The 2004 wave of state-level a€?marriage protectiona€? amendments turned out to be the last gasp of an opposition that had been polarized but was in decline. Same-sex marriage has moved to the bottom of the list of concerns expressed by Republican voters, and even those politicians who have not changed their position would prefer to keep quiet about their views.
I believe Republicans should re-examine the extent to which we are being defined by positions on issues thata€¦ put us at odds with what I expect will become over time, if not a consensus view, then the view of a substantial majority of voters.
While the details of how the endgame is played matters, to focus solely on the transactional conclusion of the struggle is to miss the point. Whether they come through state-level legislation, national legal decisions, or changes in behavior on the part of employers and religious authorities, future gains will represent the codification of a victory that, in an important sense, has already been won. The change has come about through a mass withdrawal of cooperation from a past order based on prejudice. Why Saul Alinsky, Author of "Rules" for Social Change, Would Probably Break Them TodayFirst He Came Out as Undocumented.
Legit, I’m Totally Getting It Only I Might Change The Word To Superhero But Totally Totally Found A New Tattoo Idea! However I Would Change It To An Elk And Have A Few More Flowers And Have The Flowers In Color. But what does this word 'change’ really mean to the people saying or thinking it? Is it something deeper and actually has nothing to do with the way they look but they are bored with the direction of their life? Here's What It Means for the Change You Want to See by Mark Engler and Paul Engler a€” YES! The idea that gay and lesbian couples would be able to legally exchange vows in the United States was regarded, at best, as a far-off fantasy and, at worst, as a danger to the republic. All of these passed, in what one newspaper called a a€?resounding, coast-to-coast rejection of gay marriage.a€? Ambitious conservatives with their eyes on higher officea€”such as future Wisconsin Governor Scott Walkera€”campaigned aggressively for the bans. An ever-growing majority of the public expresses its support in national polls, and statistician Nate Silver projects that majorities favoring marriage equality will coalesce in even deeply conservative Southern states by 2024. It is that the rapidly expanding victory around same-sex marriage defies many of our common ideas about how social change happens.
It was not something enacted thanks to a Senate majority leader twisting arms or a charismatic president pounding his bully pulpit. It was grounded in the idea that if social movements could win the battle over public opinion, the courts and the legislators would ultimately follow. Ideas from the tradition are most commonly used to understand rebellions in places like Poland, Serbia, and Egypt. This process often leaves politicians, when they finally catch on, scrambling to adjust to a dramatically altered political landscape. Sharpa€™s discussion of power was too focused on personal consent, they argued, and not enough on how power is embedded in social systems and collective institutions.
This idea was developed by a series of trainers in civil resistance and was first incorporated into the literature of the field in Robert Helveya€™s 2004 book, On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict. Imagine the various institutions of society as columns holding up the roof of a Roman temple.
As a refinement of Sharpa€™s theory of power, it highlights the fact that people do not interact with a regime as mere individuals.
Movements can scheme about how they might undermine one or more of the various sources of social support for the systema€”removing the backing of the clergy, for example, or prodding the press to adopt a more critical posturea€”and thus place the rulers on an ever-wobblier foundation. Rather, a movement operating on a wide range of different fronts succeeded in swaying opinion among various constituencies. The booka€™s first line, a€?This is how a revolution begins,a€? refers to Griffina€™s decision to challenge Proposition 8; a single legal case is seen as the lifeblood of the movement. Former New York Times columnist Frank Rich argued, a€?For a journalist to claim that marriage equality revolution began in 2008 is as absurd as saying civil rights struggle began with Obama.a€? Likewise, Andrew Sullivan, a prominent conservative libertarian who had long been involved in promoting gay marriagea€”having written the first national magazine cover story making the case for it in 1989a€”pointed to the decades of work that predated the narrow, transactional effort of the Perry litigation. If you start your examination of the issue with one of the Supreme Court challenges that has happened since then, you observe only the endgame of social change. Unlike in campaigns of civil resistance, advocates for same-sex marriage did not rely mainly on civil disobedience and mass protest to generate momentum (although there were notable exceptions, such as Newsoma€™s actions, the marches on Washington in 2000 and 2009, large-scale demonstrations in California around Proposition 8, and a variety of incidents in which members of the clergy broke official prohibitions to perform same-sex weddings).
In doing so, they normalized LGBT relationships for millions of Americans and broke taboos that now seem hopelessly archaic, but had long held sway in popular culture.
While conservative religious bodies have been seen as leading bulwarks against change (and, indeed, the Mormons, the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Jewish movement, and Christian evangelicals remain some of the most steadfast opponents of marriage equality), this pillar weakened as the number of welcoming congregations gradually expanded. Conservatives in Congress had long insisted that government has a legitimate interest in preserving heterosexual marriage, since a primary purpose of marriage is producing offspring and a€?government has an interest in childrena€?a€”whose well-being would ostensibly be endangered by queer parents.
A landmark court decision in 1999 allowed for civil unions in Canada, and full marriage equality laws passed there in 2005. While being openly gay in high school had once been almost unthinkable in many parts of the country, LGBT student groups grew in record numbers in the 1990s, creating supportive communities for young people whoa€”in previous generationsa€”might not have come out.


Accordingly, people between the ages of 18 and 29 have been almost twice as likely as people aged 65 and older to support same-sex marriage. Since then we have witnessed a dramatic wave of defections, not dissimilar to the last days of a dictatorship.
One after another, between 2010 and 2014, more than a dozen states joined the litany of jurisdictions allowing same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, the Methodists reinstated a minister who had been defrocked for presiding over his gay sona€™s 2007 wedding.
He, too, had a€?evolved,a€™ once the polls made it clear that such an evolution was a safe bet. The Associated Press has reported that, despite his earlier grandstanding, Wisconsin Gov.
Discrimination has not entirely ended for LGBT people, strongholds of bigotry still exist, and same-sex marriage has not yet become a universal right. The social view of power allows us to see how the recent deluge of advances in the fight for marriage equality has been overdetermined; these advances have been triggered in multiple, reinforcing ways.
It could be felt well before it was written into law, and well before it was acknowledged by those leaders now struggling to show that they have a€?evolved.a€? Indeed, like the members of a military command who have been caught off-guard by an uprising outside their palace, these politiciansa€”the people typically seen as holding power in our societya€”were the last to know. Mark is a senior analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus, an editorial board member at Dissent, and a contributing editor at Yes! Or is it that they haven’t been able to connect with anyone that can change their look successfully? Lauren had turned to home hairdressing as she had never found a hairdresser to enhance her look!
Less than a third condoned same-sex marriagea€”something no country in the world permitted at the time. Figures including Vice President Joe Biden voted for it, and then-President Bill Clinton signed the act.
Instead, it came about through the efforts of a broad-based movement, pushing for increased acceptance of LGBT rights within a wide range of constituencies. Nevertheless, theorists in this school of thought have introduced a number of concepts that are useful for understanding change in democratic contexts as well.
If people refuse to cooperate with a regimea€”if civil servants stop carrying out the functions of the state, if merchants suspend economic activity, if soldiers stop obeying ordersa€”even an entrenched dictator will quickly find himself handicapped.
Instead, their decisions about when and how they might cooperate are channeled through their various social and professional roles. Together, these efforts turned the tide of public opinion and made previous prejudices untenable.
Consistent with this, she made the protagonists of her book a high-level strategist, Chad Griffin, and two lawyersa€”liberal David Boies and conservative Theodore Olsen.
Moreover, their impact was measurable, not in terms of transactional wins, but in terms of steady movement in the polls. Nevertheless, advocates worked to turn the power of a wide range of social institutions against the conservative status quo. Klarman notes that the a€?proportion of Americans who reported knowing someone gay increased from 25 percent in 1985 to 74 percent in 2000a€?a€”and that young people were far more likely to be in the new majority than their parents.
As Gallup has reported, a€?For proponents of marriage equality, years of playing offense have finally paid off as this movement has reached a tipping point in recent yearsa€”both legally and in the court of public opinion.a€? As the temple began to crumble, pillars fell like dominos in areas including local government, business, religious organizations, the military, professional sports, and even conservative political groups.
Increasingly, the wins have come via legislation and public votes, not merely decisions by judges. But, after the majority opinion tipped, the public was introduced to the phenomenon of politicians a€?evolvinga€? in their views.
Nevertheless, it is clear that future struggles will be waged in a fundamentally different setting than those that came before.
The cumulative result was to change the terms of national debate and turn the impossible into the inevitable.
They have authority, influence, resources, and, when push comes to shove, the ability to command heavily armed security forces.
If popular disobedience is sufficiently widespread and prolonged, no regime will be able to survive. Army colonel, became fascinated with Sharpa€™s work after retiring from the military and worked as an advisor to dissidents in countries such as Burma. If they remove one or two of the pillars, the building would be weakened, but it might still stand. On May 6, 2012, Vice President Joe Biden sat for a high-profile interview on Meet the Press, in which he stated that he had changed his position. Sharp contended that people living under dictatorships, implicitly schooled in the monolithic view of power, tend to feel helpless. However, if people pull out enough of the pillars, the temple is sure to topple, and the movements will triumph. Perry, which ultimately struck down Californiaa€™s ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8. President Obama a€” who had previously recorded an a€?It Gets Bettera€? videoa€”completed his evolution shortly thereafter. They are led to believe that there is little anyone can do to challenge the existing regimea€”unless they somehow have the ear of the tyrant or have amassed a substantial arsenal.



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